“I have been so lucky over the years to have had some great instructors for both online and on-site workshops; their expertise has really infused my teaching and workshop leading for the long term.”
As an IB educator, you know that there are three categories of professional development (PD) workshops. Category 1 workshops focus on IB philosophy and implementation. Category 2 workshops focus on delivery of the four IB programmes. And last, but not least, are Category 3 (Cat 3) workshops, for educators to build on and enhance their PD portfolios.
Ironically, even though Cat 3 workshops are incredibly in-depth, most educators don’t know a lot about them. That’s why we’ve interviewed two workshop designers, Chéron Huskens and Alexis Wiggins, to shed some light on what goes into creating and registering for the somewhat challenging Category 3 workshops.
What makes a Category 3 (Cat 3) workshop unique when compared to Cat 1 and 2 workshops?
Alexis: As a participant, I always appreciated Cat 3 workshops because they assume you know already a good deal about teaching and the subject area you’re participating in; you get to really get your hands dirty with work you love! I find that I have always learned as much, if not more, from my fellow participants in Cat 3s. A presenter years ago once shared that the best PD is just stealing other people’s tricks, and I have always loved attending Cat 3 Workshops because I get to steal so many tricks to bring home to my classroom. I have also found that Cat 3 workshop leaders are some of the best in the business. I have been so lucky over the years to have had some great instructors for both online and on-site workshops; their expertise has really infused my teaching and workshop leading for the long term.
Chéron: Similarly, there is so much diversity in the participants in any given subject, especially for workshop titles that are not subject specific. This allows for rich interactions within the workshop setting as various educators share their experiences and begin to explore possibilities to collaborate with colleague from other disciplines, both within and beyond their own school community.
“It is important that teachers are able to apply what they have learned from the workshop into their classrooms almost immediately, and not be overwhelmed by the information they have just received.”
What goes into the creation of a Cat 3 workshop? Are there any challenges?
Chéron: A lot goes into the creation of a Cat 3 workshop. Generally, we (the PD team) work closely with a content developer and subject curriculum managers to create an overview of the workshop contents. With Cat 3 workshops, each have a different focus. For example, a focus on the internal assessment, or how to write an extended essay on that subject. Based on the focus, important elements, concerns and tips that should be highlighted in the workshop are discussed and put into an overview. The overview is then fleshed out into the various workshop sessions for both the face-to-face and online workshops. This includes developing the content along with relevant resources and creating various learning engagements and interactive tools for participants to engage with the content and each other.
One of the challenges is balancing the amount of detailed information while keeping the content engaging. It is important that teachers are able to apply what they have learned from the workshop into their classrooms almost immediately, and not be overwhelmed by the information they have just received. For this, using different tools and multimedia resources in the online environment, such as a quiz, infographics, timelines, videos or flip cards (just to name a few) helps make the content more interactive and engaging and reflective of IB educational philosophy in their inquiry-based approach.
“Many people don’t realize how many experts—teachers, tech specialists, PD leaders at the IB headquarters, and fellow workshop designers—are behind just one workshop’s design.”
What is the most recent Cat 3 workshop you’ve developed for the IB?
Alexis: I was lucky enough to be able to develop the IB’s most recent iteration of the Concepts and Inquiry in the DP/CP workshop, and even luckier to get to do so at the IB office in the Hague. It’s one thing to develop a workshop from home, using technology to network with others, but it’s another entirely to be part of a team of experienced IB people together in a room, pooling ideas and resources and bouncing questions off each other. Thanks to the technical expertise in the room this last time, I was able to envision and design new, unique audio features into the workshop, interviewing experienced DP and CP teachers from around the world to include their ideas and insights into the workshop. Building an activity like that isn’t only good for workshop participants, it’s great for me, too. We all grow through that kind of collaboration. Many people don’t realize how many experts—teachers, tech specialists, PD leaders at the IB headquarters, and fellow workshop designers—are behind just one workshop’s design.
Chéron: The most recent workshop I developed for the IB was for DP geography, and it focused on the internal assessment (IA). Building this workshop was a very collaborative process and although it was developed entirely virtually, it was still a very engaging experience pulling IB expertise both internally and externally. I enjoyed working together with the PD team, curriculum managers and content developer to bring the online workshop to life. Naturally, I also learned a great deal about the DP geography IA. We finished this workshop earlier this year, but because of COVID-19, we are now making some adjustments to specific sections, like primary data collection, to make it more relevant to the current circumstances. I’m looking forward to seeing this online workshop come together, and fully launched later this year!
Thanks Chéron and Alexis for your insight and all you do to keep our IB educators at the top of their game! If you’d like to try your hand (and mind) at one of our Cat 3 workshops, check out our full listing for online and face-to-face workshops.
Alexis Wiggins has been working in education for 20 years, teaching in independent schools in the U.S. and international schools in five different countries. Since 2009, she’s been a Language A teacher for both MYP and DP schools; an IB examiner, workshop leader, and workshop developer; and a consultant for the IB’s Approaches to Teaching and Learning initiative, a project near and dear to her heart, as she is passionate about designing authentic curriculum and assessment. She is also the author of The Best Class You Never Taught: How Spider Web Discussion Can Turn Students into Learning Leaders (ASCD) and presents workshops at schools and conferences, as well as online, for educators who want to use this method of inquiry-based, student-led discussion to increase student engagement, learning, and leadership.
Chéron Huskens is a learning designer in the professional development (PD) team. Together with subject matter experts and the diploma programme (DP) PD team, she designs online workshops, and most recently, eLearning resources for the professional development of IB DP teachers. She has been working at the IB since mid-January of this year.
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